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Local Jewelry Designer Creates Bold Baubles

Bold and beautiful. It’s definitely the name of a daytime soap opera (that I indulge in from time to time!), but the words could also be used to describe the type of jewelry that Houston designer Jessie Dugan makes.

When talking about what inspired some of the best-selling pieces in her line, Dugan points to a rock collection passed down to her from an uncle.

“He left me his rock collection, and a lot of them were Texas-based rocks. I was always fascinated with that because I don’t think you really see that much natural stone,” Dugan says. “It’s got a little bit of glitz and glamor to make it more elevated, and it’s an easy way to make a statement.”

The statement Dugan’s jewelry is making seems to be pretty loud. Aside from her background in high fashion, she’s also got genuine rockers wearing her glitzy rocks! You can find out who and and read the full story on CultureMap.

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Brittaney’s Beat from Episode 12 of Medulla Talk

Celebrating a centennial – my favorite story from this week’s segment is about a great-grandmother from Houston who turned 100. I am always in awe of people who have lived so long and have seen an incredible amount in their life. Their experiences are so valuable and this great-grandmother – is a hoot! Also back in the news – R. Kelly. Are those cult allegations affecting his tour? Plus, actress Keke Palmer gets real about the pressures from society to maintain a certain image.

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Brittaney’s Beat from Episode 11 of Medulla Talk

My goal with Brittaney’s Beat has always been to give a personal, fresh take on the stories I’m talking about. This week’s topics really hit home for me. I started off with Prince William and Prince Harry’s final phone call with their mother, Princess Diana , as revealed through their new documentary on her life. Then, I hit on some interesting allegations against Usher. I wrapped up with the MTV Video Music Award nominations, specifically how one of the nominees, Alessia Cara, stood out for me. Check it out below!

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Brittaney’s Beat from Episode 10 of Medulla Talk

This week in Brittaney’s Beat, I’m talking about the cult allegations against R. Kelly and the implications of that, the meaning behind the names of Beyoncé’s twins and what rapper Kendrick Lamar did for one of his long-time fans in Dallas.

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Introducing Brittaney’s Beat

I’ve always loved everything about the communications and journalism field, whether it’s having the opportunity to tell Houstonians’ stories or seeing what new aspect of the industry I can dive into.

That’s why I’m excited to announce that I’m now part of the weekly radio show Medulla Talk. The show itself airs on Houston’s Afrovibes Radio, a growing online station that live streams content 24/7. Medulla Talk explores a variety of different topics like education, relationships, and societal issues with the goal of driving conversation and getting people to not only think, but meaningfully engage.

My segment, Brittaney’s Beat, comes in with the pop culture/entertainment angle. It’s a fun break from tradition for me in that I can really insert my voice into these pieces and give my take on some of the most-talked about stories in that genre. You can listen to the first segment I did below. I’ve also created a playlist on my YouTube page.

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Kind is the New Cool

We’ve heard about wearing your heart on your sleeve, but what about proudly displaying your kindness?

“Kindness” is one of the five values you’ll find at the core of Unitee, a kid’s T-shirt brand launched by Judy Le, a local leader and co-founder of the company, Take Root, and Ericka Graham, founder of the non-profit, Project 88.

I recently interviewed both women about their values-based clothing line for kid’s. Why so much focus on values?

The duo says the T-shirts are about highlighting the great things that come naturally and already live inside kids, such as friendship and the ability to reach out to others or getting back up and trying again, even after you fail. In addition, values are things we can all agree on.

“We don’t want to be a T-shirt company that is trying to tell parents how to parent,” Graham says. “We feel like the point of Unitee is to become aware and realize when kids are being kind because they already are or when your kid takes off the training wheels, you realize that as being courageous.”

To find out what inspired Le and Graham to launch the line, read the full story on CultureMap.

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Fashion Icon Honored and Designer Tells All

This year, I covered Houston Community College’s Passion for Fashion Luncheon at River Oaks Country Club for CultureMap. I remember when I first attended as a volunteer with HCC’s television department, covering it for the station and turning the story into a package. Back then, the luncheon was held at Hotel Zaza before moving to the Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Here’s how green I was about TV: when I interviewed guests, the first words out of my mouth were “We’re here with xxxxxx! What are you wearing?” I basically treated it as a live interview (rookie mistake) and my mentor and station manager at the time told me what I did was actually pretty common for first timers! I’m thankful she continued working with me and it’s helped tremendously ever since! But I digress.

Every year, the luncheon raises money for the college’s Fashion and Interior Design Programs. It gives students in those disciplines a chance to get their work in front of some of the city’s most stylish movers and shakers.

The luncheon also honors a fashion icon who, of course, dresses well but more importantly is big on philanthropy. This year, that was Melissa Mafrige Mithoff.

One of my favorite parts of the event is the interview with the featured designer. CultureMap’s editor-in-chief has done the interview for years and this time around he talked to Rubin Singer.

Singer shared a lot of fun details (one that had the room rolling in laughter – or blushing!) and talked about his most recent show – 30,000 feet in the air on a plane – and how the idea behind Beyonce’s Super Bowl Halftime Show bodysuit (he designed it) came about.

I interviewed him after the program at Elizabeth Anthony, where you could view his Fall 2017 Ready-to-Wear Collection up close. The pieces were also part of a runway show during the luncheon.

Another fun note: Gospel singer Yolanda Adams was there. I talked to her as well and she told me she’s a supporter of HCC’s programs.

You can view my article in its entirety on CultureMap or see an excerpt below. Stay Stylish!

From CultureMap:

With a well-dressed crowd, a sharp designer with a sparkling wit, and a style icon who was moved to tears, the Passion for Fashion Luncheon at the River Oaks Country Club was one of the longtime event’s most memorable outings.

Meeting fashion designer Rubin Singer was a great start to the week for the 220 guests who attended the luncheon, which benefits Houston Community College’s fashion and interior design programs. In fact, as emcee Neil Hamil described him, Singer is downright charming.

As the featured designer this year, Singer flew in from New York City for the annual event and also debuted his evening-inspired fall 2017 ready-to-wear collection at Elizabeth Anthony. The line focuses on what Singer does best: draping, bold color, beautiful fabrics and corsetry. And women familiar with his work know it.

“When I wear his designs, it makes me feel really special and beautiful,” Melissa Mafrige Mithoff said. “I think he has an incredible flair for that.”

Continue reading the full article  here.

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Vivienne Tam’s Houston-Inspired Collection Debuts in Space City

World-renown designer Vivienne Tam made a stop here in Houston for the debut of her collection inspired by the Bayou City. The collection was initially revealed at New York Fashion Week last year. Now Houston will be the first city in the U.S. to carry the line. The event I attended was a private luncheon and runway show at Baanou, a store in the River Oaks District. I had the opportunity to interview Tam about the line and what makes Houston important to her. But the city also showed that love back. During the luncheon, it was announced that May 4 would be declared Vivienne Tam Day.

Another special moment at the event included live – yes, live! – butterflies. Read on to find out the touch of magic they brought to the luncheon. You can see the full story here or check it out after the pictures.

From CultureMap:

Talk to internationally-known designer Vivienne Tam for a few minutes, and you’ll quickly learn, her love for Houston runs deep. “This is perfect for me that I can express a love of Houston culture to the world,” Tam says. “It is a future city. It is the city of the moment.”

Houston is also now home to Tam’s 2017 spring/summer collection honoring the city through vibrant colors, 3D textures and iconic logos from Rice University’s owl mascot to “Howdy,” the bowlegged “H” of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and of course, NASA.

The latter combined to become the main theme of what Tam calls a “Space Rodeo,” paying homage to the technology-driven landscape of a city that is as modern as it is welcoming enough to feel at times like a small town.

The collection debuted at New York Fashion Week last year (where CultureMap editor-in-chief covered the runway show) and will now be sold at Baanou, making this the first time that the line will be available at a U.S. storefront.

Around 75 people gathered for a private lunch at the River Oaks District boutique to celebrate the collection’s landing in Space City. Judy Nyquist, Y. Ping Sun and Claire Cormier Thielke hosted the occasion.

Guests included local designer and Project Runway alum Chloe Dao, philanthropist Carolyn Farb, The Voice’s Tamar Davis, Staci Henderson, Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl, Drs. Duyen and Marc Nguyen, Viet Hoang, Linda Toyota, Karen and Charlie Le, and Anika Jackson.

“The most important thing that I take from all of this is she put Houston on the map in the fashion scene,” Maryam Khreibani, owner of Baanou, said. “When you have someone like Vogue writing about a collection inspired by Houston, it just brings attention to how multicultural and how different we are.”

A portion of the proceeds from sales at the event benefited Buffalo Bayou Partnership.

Dressed in a red cowboy shirt with hand-stitched spoonbills and a matching red lace flounce skirt (both items are from her line), Tam says the collection was about incorporating what she saw during a visit to Houston last year where she made stops at places including La Pulga 59 flea market, Voodoo Queen and Comicpalooza. It was there where Tam says hearing the stories and seeing the craftsmanship of the vendors inspired her to create something that bridged the cultures in Houston.

Clear mission

Her mission was clear as models glided around the store wearing 16 of the 45 looks in the collection. Indian, Chinese and Mexican embroideries flow throughout jackets, tops, dresses and skirts made of cotton and rayon. In one sequin dress, Thai and Japanese are among the languages you’ll find weaved into the piece along with symbols like rockets and Mexican flowers. The words “Power City” are on the back because as Tam says, that’s exactly what Houston is.

Tam also mixed cultures in what she calls her rodeo lace dress, an outfit that blends pandas, stars and the Rodeo’s Howdy logo into a pattern.

Tam later slipped into her “city stripe” dress, which boasts logos from the Houston Ballet, Cactus Music, Buffalo Bayou and more, creating one print.

A motif that’s particularly hard to miss in this space rodeo adventure is the butterfly. Tam says it represents nature and Houston’s free spirit. Origami butterflies made by artist Kyle Fu dangled from Baanou’s chandeliers but real butterflies stole the show later. Guests each received a packet with a live butterfly and stepped outside to release them together and make a wish.

Houston on the map

Those who helped bring this vision of a Houston-inspired collection to life say it was more than a wish fulfilled. It was a fashion miracle that began when Mike Waterman took over as president of VisitHouston two years ago.

“How do we put Houston on the map from a global perspective? And I kiddingly said to my team, ‘If our desire was global domination for Houston, what would we do?’” Waterman said. “If you look at it through the lens of global domination, you look at things differently. You look at collaborating with an international designer, and that’s where the idea came out.”

Thanks to the previous ties that creative agency Asian Wives Club had through working with Tam on projects for Hewlett Packard, Waterman was able to help secure the collection. VisitHouston paid Tam nearly nearly $450,000 to create it and underwrote the Houston debut.

The experience won a place for Houston in Tam’s heart, bringing her back to town and into Baanou. “Houston is in my blood,” Tam says. And for good reason. During the event, it was announced that the city declared May 4 “Vivienne Tam Day.”

French restaurant Toulouse Cafe and Bar served a menu in her honor — Toulouse chopped salad, grilled Norwegian salmon and chocolate fondant.

Celebrate local artists

Even though the day was meant to recognize Tam, it also celebrated local artists and their talents. Musician Zubair Al Awadi, a refugee from Iraq, played the oud as attendees chatted. Poet Outspoken Bean closed the program, dropping a line that wrapped up a day focused on H-town. “All 646 square miles of Houston is a dinner table and you are all welcome here so make sure that you bring a dish. While you’re at it bring your wish and I guarantee you it will be granted here.”

Tam said she agrees: “You can do what you love here, and people accept you.”

“I hope people feel great in this collection,” she added. “That they’re proud of their city like how I love their city.”

Vivienne Tam’s 2017 spring/summer collection will be available at Baanou through the summer. T-shirts start at $175. Dresses start at $340 and go up to $1300 for embroidered lace.

 

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English Elegance: Gala Channels Downton Abbey at Hotel Zaza

English elegance came to Hotel Zaza in the form of Devereux Advanced Behavior Health’s gala. This year’s event featured a Downton Abbey theme that was echoed not only in the decor but right down to the music (the show’s theme song played in the ballroom).

The gala raises money to help fund the group’s services. One of the parts I think event-goers (and jewelry fanatics!) really enjoyed was the Kendra Scott mystery pull. They had a similar pull at the TUTS gala and I must admit, I was a willing participant in both. There’s just something about a surprise jewelry box I find really exciting! Ha!

Suzi Hanks from Houston’s Eagle radio station was the emcee. Overall, the event never lost sight of its true mission to bring awareness to issues some are too afraid to talk about such as abuse or neglect. I appreciated that the focus remained on the goal of helping others.

Another element I loved: many items were up for auction and among them – a painting created by Devereux’s therapy dog, Stevee.

You can see that in the pictures below. You can read the full story here. It’s also in its entirety under the photo gallery.

From CultureMap:

Ladies and lords turned out in their finest attire for the Downton Abbey-inspired Savor the Hope Gala at Hotel Zaza benefiting Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health. Now in its eighth year, the event raises money to help sustain the programs and services at Devereux, a nationwide organization that helps children and adults overcome several challenges including intellectual and developmental disabilities. It has two Texas campuses in League City and Victoria.

Many in the crowd of 300 wore the Downton Abbey theme well, donning gowns, tiaras and feather and rhinestone hairpieces that echoed the 1920s style seen later in the series. The feeling of aristocracy trickled into the ballroom, from the show’s theme song lightly playing in the background to the décor, which featured large floral and white plume centerpieces donated by Kroger.

But just because the setting was posh doesn’t mean that the atmosphere was stuffy. “Dean and Rog” Morning Show co-cost Suzi Hanks from Houston’s Eagle radio station opened dinner with jokes and kept the room rocking as she emceed through the night.

The gala honored Austin-based jewelry designer and philanthropist Kendra Scott with the Emy Award, which recognizes leaders or organizations in the community for their charitable giving. Scott was unable to attend, but according to a member of her team accepting the award on her behalf, the designer has worked with Devereux to raise more than $5,000 for that organization alone since partnering with them last year.

Even though fashion was a way to bring everyone together, Devereux executive director Pamela Reed reminded everyone of the real reason for the soirée: raising awareness about the issues affecting children that many people are too afraid to talk about, such as neglect or abuse. The evening was also about celebrating the ways partygoers could become involved with the group’s mission.

A live auction emceed by lifestyle and fashion blogger Sheree Frede opened the floor to anyone looking to get away, whether it was a staycation at Hotel Zaza or a trip of English elegance to The Savoy hotel in London. Frede’s husband, Norman Frede, who owns a dealership in the Clear Lake area, came through with the biggest win of the night in the live auction  — bidding $10,000 for a trip to the Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson.

In a separate room housing the silent auction items, there was another star of the show – a half Labrador, half Dachshund named Stevee. He’s Devereux’s therapy dog and he offered his own artwork of colorful dog paws. At one point, he slipped away from Devereux behavioral analyst Rose Filteau and ran into the arms of guests who were delighted to have him. An autographed Houston Texans Jadeveon Clowney jersey and diamond level Houston Astros tickets were some of the other items up for grabs.

Seen in the crowd were radio personality Sarah Pepper, gala chairs Jon Halvorsen and Pamela O’Brien, Devereux director of development Joni Roberston, Roy Green, Lisa Dimond Vasquez, Aliza Dutt, Larry Strader, Amy and John Mallett, Elizabeth and Charles Spillar, and members of the Deacons of Deadwood Motorcycle Club.

Between guests sampling Argentinean empanadas and sausage hors d’oeuvres from Patagonia Grill and Café, taking snapshots at the Stardust Photobooth and dancing to live music by The Gentle Lamb Experience, the gala proved that having fun and giving back never goes out of style.

 

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Houston Texans Cheerleaders Tryouts

This year, I covered the Houston Texans Cheerleader Tryouts and I met a really diverse set of people. More than 600 hopefuls showed up for the chance to earn their spot on the squad. In the end, only about 50 or so made it to the finalists round and the squad was whittled down from there. The fact that everyone, regardless of if they made it or not, was brave enough to try out is admirable to me. I only tried out for a squad in junior high school! Veterans weren’t guaranteed a spot on the team. They had to audition again just like anyone else.

For a look at some of the people who tried out and their stories, check out my photo essay here.

I also took a few shots of my own including of some of the Texans super fans who were invited to judge tryouts.